Note: This article was printed in a Journal issue on Apr. 20, 2022.
Some Webster students will be swapping the Gorlok blue and gold for lavender this year at graduation. For the first time in Webster history, the university will host a lavender graduation ceremony for LGBTQ+ students. This celebration is specifically for LGBTQ+ students as a way of honoring their accomplishments.
The celebration was brought to the attention of Webster University by student Robin Robins.
“After this year, Webster is not going to have an LGBTQ+ alliance, so the trans support group is trying to step up and do more on campus and be that voice that people don’t see anymore,” Robins said.
Robins said they want this event to be for the community and by the community, so the event will be closed to anyone not a part of the LGBTQ+ community. For students like Jane Doe – whose name has been redacted due to not being out to family – this will be an opportunity to feel recognized at graduation.
“I remember sitting in the crowd at [high school] graduation and watching my friend go up there and have his dead name read aloud in front of 2000 people,” Doe said. “And it’s heartbreaking because graduation is meant to be a celebration for trans people, it usually isn’t.”
They said that Lavender Graduation feels like a safe space to celebrate not only academics but queerness, as well. Doe said that positive representation for transgender individuals is hard to come by.
As a media communications major, Doe said that transgender individuals are often marketed as predators in the media.
“It is more important now than ever for organizations like Webster – like a [prominent] entity – to say openly, we stand with trans people,” Doe said.
Doe said that this new feature for graduation is potentially a step in the right direction for Webster University. They chose to attend this university because of its openly queer friendly reputation. Despite this, Doe said that the resources for those students have been lacking in the past.
“Like it or not, Webster has become a queer safehaven,” Doe said. “I think it needs to celebrate that.”
Doe is not the only person that feels Webster has missed the mark on representing its students. Robins also shared this sentiment.
“I’m looking at the diversity, equity and inclusion sign that Webster has and it is a very big value to Webster students to have that sense of roundness and inclusiveness,” Robins said. “However, it is kind of lacking in the recent years.”
They said that this new student-run event should help promote some of those ideals on campus.
The celebration does not stop at the initial event. Students are also able to opt into receiving a lavender cord to wear the day of Webster’s commencement ceremony with the general population. The lavender cord is to symbolize their place within the LGBTQ+ community and show their pride at graduation.
This is an RSVP only event, so students must reserve their space in advance or they will not be granted attendance. Students also need to email in advance to receive their lavender cord.
Patrick Stack, co-facilitator of the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Support Group on campus, is involved in the process. He says the Student Government Association has offered to cover the cost of cords, decorations and food for the event. There is talk of a photobooth and at least a dozen pride flags to celebrate the different LGBTQ+ identities.
“It’s essentially a send off for the seniors,” Robins said. “It’s also just a time of remembrance for college kids, especially trans kids and just any LGBTQ person, it’s a large period of growth. So it’s nice just to have a celebration that kind of reflects that.”